Campus: CPSU, San Luis Obispo -- November 24, 1999

Unocal's Avila Bay Wharf May be Site of Cal Poly Marine Sciences Center; University Would Lead Education, Community Collaboration

The Unocal wharf has long been a fixture on Avila Bay, serving as a major transfer point for petroleum goods along California's Central Coast. Yesterday at a meeting on the wharf hosted by the university and Unocal, representatives from both organizations discussed how the wharf could become the site of a marine sciences center under the direction of Cal Poly.

Though plans for the wharf and facility are only in the early stages, the university would collaborate with Unocal to create a multipurpose educational and research facility that could serve students from Cal Poly, Cuesta and Allen Hancock community colleges, and area K-12 schools.

"We are very happy that Unocal is considering making this tremendous resource available to Cal Poly and the community," said Cal Poly President Warren J. Baker. "The wharf would become a living laboratory where students could explore a diverse array of subjects related to marine biology and oceanography. It would truly be a place where students can learn-by-doing.

"It is particularly exciting to know the facility would be used to enhance the marine environment, as well as to strengthen the various local marine species through educational studies and research. Cal Poly's faculty and students have been involved with a number of local, ongoing environmental restoration projects, and similar programs at the proposed center would correspond with those efforts," Baker added. "We are also pleased that this project would benefit not just Cal Poly, but also the local community colleges and K-12 schools."

"Unocal is very excited about working with Cal Poly to develop this educational opportunity. We are hopeful this facility will supply the community with a resource for students of all ages," said Unocal's Central Coast Group General Manager Mark Smith.

During yesterday's meeting Unocal and Cal Poly representatives met with several local government and education officials to initiate discussion of potential educational and research ventures and the current vision for the wharf as a marine studies facility. San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Peg Pinard, San Luis Obispo schools Superintendent Julian Crocker, and Harbor Commissioners John Koepf and Carolyn Moffatt participated in the meeting. Ann Foxworthy, president of Hancock College, and Marie Rosenwasser, president of Cuesta College, also took part in the discussion.

"There is much work to be done and there are many people and groups with whom to consult," said Cal Poly College of Science and Mathematics Dean Phil Bailey. "But the wharf project is very exciting and would be exceedingly valuable to the education of area students.

"I really appreciate the work of the people at Unocal in bringing this opportunity to Cal Poly," Bailey said. "It is important to note the contributions [biology professor] Tom Richards has made to this effort. He, his colleagues at Cal Poly and various people in the community have worked tirelessly to initiate the development of a vision for this incredible facility."

A marine sciences center, which would be situated at the end of the wharf, would allow students and researchers to gain previously unattainable hands-on experience.

"One of the things that has limited Cal Poly's marine studies program has been its inability to get students out there -- on the water," said Mark Moline, assistant professor of Biological Sciences. "A terrestrial botanist need only step outside the lab to do his or her work. Someone studying marine biology needs to get out there and be part of that environment. Just being out on the end of the wharf is wonderful. I know it would inspire many students."

A news conference regarding the status of the proposed marine sciences center will be held at a future date.

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